Employees of the nation’s largest television station operator, Sinclair, read a script on-air, much to the dismay of viewers. Sinclair, which could soon reach 72 percent of American households, received a ton of criticism since a Deadspin video showcased multiple local news anchors parroting those same lines in unison. Sinclair forced these employees to read from the script that was biased to the right of right-wing slant.
It might make you wonder why those reporters would stay in jobs that force them to say things on air that they didn’t believe to be true or accurate.
Now it turns out we can guess why, as we learn that Sinclair requires those reporters to sign contracts, and has sued employees that leave early before their contract ends. Legal experts are questioning why the company is taking such punitive actions against employees, even when they opt to leave the news business altogether, rather than stay at Sinclair Broadcasting.
From The Guardian:
“Sinclair contracts contain a requirement that employees must pay their employers if they leave their jobs before their contract terms end. For example, an employee making $50,000 annually might have to pay in the ballpark of $10,000 if she wanted to leave after one year of a two-year term.”
Signing a contract with Sinclair could be like signing away your future career choices. They require a non-compete clause, so journalists can’t go to work for competitors–anywhere. They consider the penalty they impose on those who leave early as “liquidated damages.”
Such a contract seems abusive, but it’s actually part of a larger trend to trap and exploit workers in America. Terri Gerstein writes that:
“Companies that try to limit their liability by hoodwinking their employees into signing abusive employment contracts are taking advantage of the extreme power imbalance between an employer and a working person. People need to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Abusing that fact to keep people tethered, and to steal away basic rights, is reprehensible. And as the disturbing Sinclair videos demonstrate, disempowerment of workers has an effect that pervades things we value in society – among them the free flow of information and journalistic integrity.”
One former Sinclair reporter, Lauren Hills, told Newsweek about the lawsuit the company filed against her when she broke her contract. Although she didn’t seek work with a competitor, they sued her for $17,050 since she had 11 months left. She didn’t want to be a slave to the contract or the company.
Why would they demand this money from her, when it’s really just a small drop in the bucket for the massive company? She said:
“This is a ton of money for me, but for Sinclair it’s just a drop in the bucket, less than a rounding error. To me, this is just a bully tactic, it’s meant to scare other people from leaving their jobs if they’re unhappy.”
Another reporter who was also sued for leaving after less than a year revealed a sinister atmosphere. Though he is Republican, he was concerned with the biased directives of the station, which made out liberals to be immoral people. Jonathan Beaton told Newsweek that:
“I was 22 years old when I signed the contract, and pretty soon after I realized that Sinclair ruled with an iron fist and that there was a sort of terror that came from the top down.”
Beaton cited other problems, including long hours, slanted reporting, and:
“…Bosses who failed to value his quality of life.”
Yet another anchor told CNN that they “felt like a POW recording a message,” scripted as a must-run by Sinclair and that “everyone was uncomfortable doing it.”
Amid this climate, Sinclair is waiting for government approval to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, increasing its reach from 38 to 72 percent of all households. But will the federal or state government do something to protect the employees who work there?
Considering who is President, it doesn’t seem likely the feds will do much. Consider the two quotes below:
If you local station is owned by Sinclair, remember this…
SINCLAIR MEDIA = PROPAGANDA#BoycottSinclair
— Indivisible Network (@IndivisibleNet) April 9, 2018
The best strategy, as in most industries, might be for the workers at media companies like Sinclair to organize and form a union. Gerstein said:
“The Sinclair anchors spoke in unison delivering the company’s message. Maybe one day soon, they can take back the power and again speak in unison, this time delivering their own.”
Watch CNN host, Brian Stelter interview a former Sinclair staffer who is now suing the company. The atmosphere appears to be more oppressive now since Trump took office.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) April 8, 2018
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Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube.